It seems semi-appropriate that the Chicago Cubs would meet up with the Washington Nationals here in September after meeting on opening weekend. Seeing as the Nationals are 83-52 and the Cubs are 51-84, it should come as little surprise that the Nationals have won the first two games of the four-game series. And I wouldn't be surprised to see them win the last two. This team is really good.
The Cubs on the other hand are not. They find themselves knee-deep in rebuild mode and barely have a foundation built. The interesting thing is that the Nationals are exactly the type of team the Cubs hope to one day become --built from the inside out, using trades and free agents to plug in the gaps. Watching the Nationals growth over the last five years has been fun from an outsider standpoint --i.e I'm not a Nationals "fan." I'm betting it was even more fun from an insider standpoint. Growth doesn't just happen. And even when you do it the right way --see above-- it doesn't always work. Trades and signings don't always pan out. If you do it the proper way, you don't guarantee results. You just give yourself a bigger chance to do well. The Chicago Cubs organization currently sits at that crossroads.
Let's see just how far off the Cubs are from the Nationals by the numbers. The Nationals are 10th in average, the Cubs 26th; same numbers apply for home runs; the Nationals are 13th in runs scored, the Cubs 29th. For pitching, the Nationals are 2nd in ERA, the Cubs 24th; the Nationals are 2nd in average against, the Cubs are 20th.
Those numbers aren't meant to reveal anything beyond the ranks, they're just a blip that illustrates the disparaging statistics being churned out by these two teams. There are plenty of intangible ways that the Cubs are behind the Nationals, stats are just one of the few tangible illustrations.
Ultimately, I think the Cubs will build the right way. Under Theo Epstein, they are certainly on the path, but there's no way of knowing whether or not that path will bring that elusive World Series title. It looks like it might for the Washington Nationals. We can only hope it does for the Cubs.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed Major League Baseball throughout.
Sources Team Stats